The metal manganese may contribute to Parkinson's disease when defective genes interact to boost its toxicity, a study suggests.
Manganese, which is naturally present in the human body, is stored mainly in the liver and kidneys. It's an essential trace nutrient in nearly all forms of life but is also a known risk factor for Parkinson's.
The researchers conducted experiments on yeast cells and found that manganese toxicity caused by excessive levels of a protein called alpha-synuclein was greatly reduced in the presence of another protein called ATP13A2, Agence France Pressereported.
Yeast cells that lacked ATP13A2 were more sensitive to manganese. It's believed that ATP13A2 plays a role in transporting metal molecules, especially manganese. The researchers duplicated their findings in laboratory-grown rat neurons. The study was published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Susan Lindquist, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues said their findings suggest that people with mutations in the genes that encode these two proteins may be particularly vulnerable to manganese poisoning, AFP reported.